Somewhere between 800 and 1,000 members from various civil society and youth organisations, joined by buddhist monks from the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ), marched from the French embassy to the Chinese embassy with a few stopovers at the U.S., British, Australian, Russian, Japanese and Indonesian embassies, spiced with a longer stop at the Natioanl Assembly, to commemorate the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991 which sealed the fate of today’s Cambodia.
Nearly 20 people were wounded yesterday on Sihanouk Boulevard during the violent dispersion by municipal security guards of a demonstration held by villagers from Preah Vihear province who wanted to get their land issue known to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
See also HERE.
This is a follow-up post on the ‘Quest for Land‘ story which is available as an iApp on iTunes and which reports on land issues in Cambodia since the year 2000 with texts by Robert Carmichael and over 700 photographs.
Three separate protests took place in the streets of Phnom Penh this morning. Two of them are nearly part of a ritual: Boeung Kak lake residents protesting at City Hall about finally, after several years, having a clear delimitation of the 12,44 Ha promised by Prime Minister Hun Sen, and the relocated railway community protesting at the Asian Development Bank for its implication in the poor results of that relocation.
The third demonstration, although on the same topic of a land issue, was held by a new, very determined group: representatives of more than 250 families from Choan Ksan district in Preah Vihear province. They are temporarily hosted by the monks from Kampuchea Krom at Wat Samaky Raingsey and were prevented to demonstrate once already last week. This time they managed to reach the Chinese, Russian and Australian embassies, as well as the National Assembly to deliver a petition but, after trying to use a tuk-tuk to ram through a police barricade set up on Sihanouk boulevard, were prevented from reaching Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house.
They would be violently dispersed some 30 minutes after I left.
‘Cambodia is not a recycle bin’ was one of the slogans carried by the 500+ citizens marching in the streets of Phnom Penh today to protest the refugee deal Australia signed with Cambodia. An undetermined number of volunteer candidate refugees, momentarily parked on Nauru island by the Australian authorities, would be transferred to an as of yet undisclosed place in the vicinity of Phnom Penh (not inside to capital itself because ‘there are too much traffic jams’) in exchange for $US 35 million in Australian aid over the next few years.
The protest went from the U.S. Embassy, to the Council of Ministers where a rather clumsy attempt by security guards to block the march failed miserably after a short scuffle, on to the United Nations Human Rights Office and then to the National Assembly. The Australian Embassy was reached after a lunch under the trees.
For the protesters the refugee deal between Cambodia and Australia in itself is a good reason enough to protest, but it is also the occasion of pointing out everything which does not work properly in the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’.
Surfing on a wave of nationalist pride, the ancient martial art of ‘bokator’, the likely ancestor of ‘brodal serei’ and ‘muay thai’ boxing, was given a significant boost for its revival a few years back through the impulse of grand master San Kim Sen. Today 29 bokator clubs, spread around the Kingdom, sent 124 members, both male and female, to take part in the National Bokator Championship.